Sunday, 3 June 2012

The Alchemist


THE MOMENT of putting pencil to pristine paper begins in an artist a process that is described in myths and in alchemical texts, on spiritual paths and in psychologists' consulting rooms, on esoteric quests and in our dreams at night... 

I prefer not to plan my paintings very heavily, and my sketchbooks contain just  very rough draughtswoman's notes as to the vague placing of things within a frame. I like to save the real magic for the actual final painting. For me, the shamanic process of coaxing out entities from the page and deciding the most beautiful trajectory for a line needs to take place within the object itself, for it to become an object of power. If I drew the whole thing out in draught and then copied it to the canvas, it would be dead and remain leaden.


And for the purposes of this work, I am concerned with transforming that lead into gold. 


I always listen to music when I work; I find it takes me easily into the otherworld I need to dwell in to be able to work magically. Music is a dear and important part of my artistic life. I love to play and to listen, and I am endlessly fascinated by the shifts it causes in me: the movements in my soul. 
Some many moons ago, I was on a train listening to music on my headphones, and drawing in my sketchbook at the same time. Perhaps because I was actually hurtling along simultaneously, the conjunction of overwhelmingly moving music and creation, caused me to consider the alchemical process that is art.


It struck me that the musicians who had composed and played this music were putting the same heart into it which I put into my painting, and that consequently, I was being moved, being transformed by listening to the work of these musicians whilst drawing. I wondered at the thread of soul which goes into a work of art - be it music or writing or painting or dance or theatre or whatever - and then leaks out again upon it being experienced. It then goes into that person standing before the work of art, and actively changes them. What then comes out of that person is coloured by the particular magical thread they've taken hold of in falling under the spell of that piece of art.


Words and an idea came then, on that train, about the role of artist as alembic, where the transformation necessary for making gold happens within the artist, but also, crucially, within the artwork. This is why beautiful things created with soul matter: they set running a series of alchemical reactions inside human beings, that are vital for living a meaningful life. The creation and imbibing of these beautiful things is just as necessary to us as is the husbandry and nourishment of food.



And so I began a painting of an alchemist. This Alchemist is an artist and a young woman. She sits cross-legged in an arched palette-mandala of phoenix-fiery transformation. Around her head flies a golden nimbus of musicians, undoubtedly playing the East European folk music of my soul. From their instruments and mouths come ribbons of song, stitched with a poem, and many-coloured. This ribbon winds down through our Alchemist's dress, and becomes the coloured stripes of the fabric. In her hands she holds her own heart, which takes in and bleeds out this ribbon of song, this thread of soul, as if it is her own blood. On it flows, down her dress, through her, until it reaches the hem of her dress. There it trickles off into many paint jars to become the pigment with which she will create her magic thereafter.


The painting of this piece mapped my own personal transformations, and became for me precisely what I sought to describe in painting it. It took a long time, many months. I stopped working on it at some points, and concentrated on other, less potent works. But this one still called me, and I finally completed the work.


Underneath the Alchemist is a word in golden Cyrillic letters - Алхимичка. It means Alchemist, but I’ve feminized the ending. There isn’t really a word for a woman-alchemist, and I’m told that this word might sound rather ridiculous to Russians.


This painting rests on a pivot on which balance many spectrums... music:painting, sound:vision, red:violet, above:below, sun:moon, masculine:feminine, invisible:visible, ash:phoenix, and so on... The most obvious pivot is the place of intersection of the two circles, within which Venn-space is held the heart, the place where I feel physically these transformations taking place in me.


Last I added gold and words; soon I will frame the painting, perhaps as if it was an icon. 
I am astounded by this painting, (which is extremely unusual for me in relating with my own work) and more so by the fact that it looks nothing like I imagined it would when I thought it up back then on that train. It is a kaleidoscope of gold and jewel colours and magic and music, it has painted me, and I almost don't know how it happened.








by 
© Rima Staines 2012

This soaring song,
The musicians' brew
of heart-chord changes,
and pieces of you;

O liquorice liquor
as black as a hole,
replenish the belly
of my samovar-soul.

This artist's body:
alembic of love,
transfigures the liquor
of song from above,

And paints out the colours
of humanity's tale;
a golden translation:
What it is to be frail.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Small postscript...
  • The spell-poem above is what's written in the painting in the threads of song.
  • This painting (as well as my Rise & Root piece) is being published in the third Dark Mountain book, which is available for pre-order now.
  • There are two sizes of archival giclée prints of The Alchemist available in my shop now, as well as other, smaller prints.

74 comments:

Antonio Dias said...

Rima,

Congratulations!

What an apt description of the process, and a wonderful work!

I know just how you feel, when a work we "make" is transformed. We can wonder at it. No "I" made it. It came through us!

And its sources flowed through from the work of others and, hopefully, it will continue this flow by passing on into others!

Tony

The Wild Fairy said...

What a lovely post Rima and such a beautiful work of art! Thank you for sharing your thoughts and your processes. ~Siobhan

Heather said...

I am speechless with admiration. This painting is a masterpiece.

Aoife.Troxel said...

I tried to say it as eloquently as you described the artistic process, but I don't think it can be done: this painting is amazing. I don't mean in the modern watered-down way that dresses are amazing and dogs are amazing and singers are amazing, I mean amazing.

Travis and Maggie said...

Hi Rima, the artist as an alchemist, YES!

Auguste said...

This is incredible and speaks to me so much! It feels good in this time of disrest and uncertainty. I had lost sight of your blog for a little while and in parallel had lost touch with myself. This piece and your words have shone a little light inside.

Muzammil Karim said...

Brilliant work!
Wonderful process!!!

Juliette Williams said...

Rima, this painting is absolutely sublime. I've loved your work for several years now, but this is truly one of my most favorites. What beauty!
xoxo Juliette

coinguyslady said...

Three words. I LOVE IT!

Lynne said...

Thank you for revealing not only the painting, and therefore yourself, but the process by which it is created. I'm in awe of your artistry and the colour and line....and so much more. And now I'm burbling.Beautiful Thank you.

Charlotte said...

It is quite simply marvellous, paper is singing and her music is in our blood.

Windsongs and Wordhoards said...

An extraordinary painting... it has such power and indeed alchemy... its beautiful. Art, words and music are so intertwined and you have encompassed that profoundly in this work of art! :)

the wild magnolia said...

in all the universe you are is among the best, a gift, a mystery, thank you for sharing the process.

I am thankful to have seen these and read these words.

alchemy enters the spirit.

Ms. said...

Magnificent!

Velma said...

one of my favorites of your pieces. very strong. very.

Rusted Wings said...

what a perfect marriage and blending of words, music, art, the artist....a true masterpiece of the spirit!

Sylvia said...

Oh my goodness, Rima, this makes my heart full and rich with all those colors. What a truly transcendent painting. It describes the process of creating things truly from the heart more beautifully than any words could. Thank you for sharing this, and for your words of wisdom to me a few weeks back. This painting just embodies the beauty and courage it takes to follow that bright wild path.

I think you might like the work (well, just the chaotic studio-world) of a friend of mine, Steve Coleman, with whom I'm working on a puppet show (retelling of East of the Sun, West of the Moon). Come see it on The Indigo Vat!

Sue said...

I have been thinking a lot about alchemy over the past few weeks, and have just begun reading The Black Sun: The Alchemy and Art of Darkness by Stanton Marlan. And so seeing this post about this awesome piece was just ... oh, you know, when synchronicity and alchemy are woven together, it's really the top of the pile, isn't it? I always feel nourished when these sorts of things happen.

I was wondering what your draft drawings look like, and if it would be possible to see one of them? I love what you say about drafting as lightly and as littly as possible so that the magic comes on the canvas. I am beginning to understand this in the minor messings with pencil I've been doing in recent years, and how annoying it is when I have been randomly drawing something that I end up being fascinated with, and it's on the crappy newspaper clipping scrapbooks I like to draw on BECAUSE they're crap, and they take away the pressure then. But then when good things come out I'd like to go further with, I lack any desire to rework it again on better quality paper.

Perhaps there is something to be said for "wasting" the good paper to start off with, eh? :) The process of watching your pieces unfold is magical, and thank you so much for being so brave and generous to share them with us. It really means a lot.

Would you mind awfully if I save this pic to my hard drive so that I can meditate upon it while I'm reading this book I've just started?

Mo Crow said...

Thank you for sharing the making of your journeywoman's piece Rima, you are indeed an Alchemista of Spirit and Soul, Colour Conjuror Extraordinaire.
Namaste

A mermaid in the attic said...

A masterpiece, Rima. Beautiful, stunning and full of meaning. I agree absolutely, the act of creation is a magical, alchemical one, it takes inspiration from a myriad of places (music is a big one for me too), and transforms it all into something that is greater than the sum of its parts. And even more magically, it speaks to each and every person who sees it in the language of their heart, and their heart alone, and bestows on them a gift that is unique for them.

Annie said...

I have loved seeing this work grow from the first pencil stroke to the final version - your post itself is a work of art! And The Alchemist is wonderful, every little detail, the colours, the concept and the process - I loved watching the colours fall down the page to the little waiting pots. Spectacular, Rima. Absolutely brilliant - speaking words, thoughts, feelings, music, poetry - it's just all there.
Axxx

Cathy Cullis said...

Hello Rima, I've enjoyed seeing all these very detailed, rich and wonderful images. I feel I can relate to this work, very much, with the threads of magical transformation and chance, and frailty. best wishes Cathyx

laoi gaul~williams said...

rima this is just glorious :)

Tess said...

Rima, I'm in tears. Reading your words and looking at this work in progress and then finished is like prayer. Almost an invasion of something very sacred and very private.

Marylene said...

wow, I'm speechless... Thank you for the wonderful Alchemista and her story

Snippety Giblets said...

Astounding indeed, Rima ! A magically beautiful piece. I loved seeing the different stages of creation. Lovely !

Ronnie (RR) said...

Rima this painting is truly a work of art. It is so detailed and I love to follow you on your journey from start to finish with your paintings, watching how it develops. Her dress is beautiful. Well done :)

olive said...

wow.... just blows my mind Rima.
Just to let you know I bought the Jack Zipes book which is a great read. Love your Baba Yaga drawing especially the skulls! xx

Lois said...

What a wonderful journey that was, thank you.

Cat Lupton said...

Just ... astonishment. What a stunning expression of the mysteries of making, Rima; and firebirds on the border too. Thanks for sharing her emergence xx

Virginia said...

Oh, it's astounding.

Ciara said...

Amazing. Just...amazing.

Aside from the incredible painting, which I think may be my favourite you've ever done, your description of the process is something else. And so familiar. I recognise it immediately. I too cannot work without music. Truly it is a magical element that transports one.
But beyond that, your words beautifully describe this remarkable process. Phenomenon, really.
My brain is now creaking slightly, thank you! xxxx

keziah said...

Rima, Don't know if you ever have a *dry* period, when you are bereft of inspiration. Somehow I doubt it, you seem to overflow with beauty for which I am grateful. Me and everyoe else here! But I do have those itchy unsettled barren patches which are AWFUL. Looking at this latest work and reading of its birth has fanned a tiny spark within me. Thank you for the beauty you create and the thin thread which reaches into my own creative heart.

Penny Freeman said...

Hey, Rima,

Greetings from way down/over here in Texas. I just thought I would write you a note and tell you how much I'm in love with your work, especially your latest, "Alchemist". It's all especially enchanting. I'm in love with your site and have it on my blog roll on my own.

Penny Freeman

Teleri said...

I don't know what to say. I just clicked on the comments-button and now there are no words to express what I feel when I look at that painting.

So.. do you accept payment via normal bank transfer? :D

suz said...

I have no words ... this brings tears to my eyes. thank you so much for sharing this.

poetjanstie said...

Aside from the fact that this is a phenomenal work of art AND that you have documented its creation, step by step, in this blog post, there is something in the process that struck me that I felt I had to share in this comment.

It is that, writing poetry, which I do, for me often suffers the same fate by a process of planning, outlining, drafting it in rough first; it becomes sanitised, it somehow loses its soul and maybe its direction.

The result, which by your own confession is not what you expected, speaks for itself. Sometimes it is possible to create something that you can look back on in the future and wonder at the fact that it was actually you who produced it! It takes on a life all its own. I'm so impressed by what you did here.

Fimbulmyrk said...

This has much to do with yourself. Thanks, Rima.;-)

I learn a lot more in one sentence than I can process, so I have to reread this post frequently.

...what it is to be frail...:


Five fingers
On the handle of the sword:
Birth, life, love and death...

Where is the thumb?

Lunar Hine said...

You surpass yourself. Keep going, Alchemista.

The Old Burrow said...

Dearest Rima,
I saw this and I found my self saying out loud " She's done it".
It's beautifully magical and I am not surprised at all that you don't know how it happened.
Maybe it came from stillness and a connectedness to being?
Truly amazing and inspiring.
I hope you are selling prints!!!!
Cathy xx

Hoola Tallulah said...

There simply are no words magnificent or gracious enough to describe this post and painting, I am deeply moved and inspired by your magic, just... wow.

Rima Staines said...

Friends, you do me a great honour with your words, thank you. I do feel that this one's one of "those" paintings... and I'm happy you all feel that too. Thank you for sharing your thoughts...

And for those who asked - yes there are prints! Here!

Sue - I plan one of these days to do a post about my sketches, so will perhaps share some roughs then. And, yes, please do use this image on your desktop :)

Thank you once again folks... I often feel like I've run out of words to respond well enough to your wonderful comments, but believe me they make a difference and I take them all in.

xx Rima

warrendraper said...

I want to see this image assembled in stained-glass and set high into an east-facing wall of a great cavernous, cathedral-like, cave. This would provide a space where we could shower our souls in the great spectrum (both visible and beyond) while listening to your Tom tell us tales...


Failing that I'll settle for a print ;-)

Els said...

Ahhhh Rima this is such a beautiful work !!!!!!!!
You amaze me time and time again !

jodi said...

A painting like that makes words seem foolish, but I'm happy enough to be foolish if it means you'll know how much I love this new painting. It's truly a wonder!

Raggle Taggle Gypsy Girl said...

Thanxs for sharing in this magical process, it is great to see how you go about your work and also why......I feel very inspired.......She, you, the Alchemist is very beautiful and very clever and gifted.....

Sue said...

Thank you kindly, Rima. I think I might just have to buy me one of them there prints to wend its way across the sea for my wall (as soon as the car insurance, the rego, the new tyres, the rent and the new oven door are out of the way ;)

Anonymous said...

Reminds me a Frida Kahlo's painting, a little bit (:

Lunaea Weatherstone said...

So powerful, Rima!

Marigold Fairweather said...

Ah Rima, my heart is singing!
Thank you X

LittleInsect said...

Rima, I think you, like me, suffer (no, suffer is totally the wrong word) experience some form of synaethesia.
Your picture shows that you take music, amongst other things, and turn them into colours. With you, it is in your wonderful worksof art, with me, it is in my embroidery and jewellery.

I can't create unless I'm listening to music, and undoubtedly, the kind of music I'm listening to at that moment inspires what I create, the choice of colours, techniques etc.

This latest picture of yours sums it all up for me, and I WILL be owning a print of it.

May your guides keep you, Tom and Macha safe and well

acornmoon said...

You have excelled yourself here Rima! I love it. Recently I entertained an artist/blogger friend from Australia. She saw your artwork hanging on our wall and knew all about you- small world.

Carolee said...

Breathtaking and magical! You've managed to convey the connection between music and painting in a way we've all experienced, but have never been able to describe...

Exquisite, and as soon as I can set the funds aside, I must have a giclee.

~ Carolee

Kay said...

truly beautiful, thanks for sharing the process..x

Yael said...

WOW! I am speechless! WHAT a talent! :-)

zoe said...

fantastically beautiful!!! i am enthralled....

Ms. said...

To tell you you have been sited at another blog today (http://www.phantasmaphile.com/2012/06/rima-staines.html)

illustration poetry said...

beautiful... i wish i could paint like you and share feelings without being judged by some annoying people.

Clive Hicks-Jenkins said...

Not much to be added by me here, as so many have already left appreciations of the work and your posting of the making of it. Suffice to say, Brava Rima. Beautiful and illuminating work.

Maurice Sendak claimed always to listen to Mozart while working, and I think it showed!

Trish said...

This is so beautiful.. I have showed this post to all that have enterd my home!
... I wonder, what music do you listen to whilst you work?
Much love to you.

Rima Staines said...

Trish - I wondered if anyone would ask that :) ... a post on my musical world will come in time I think.
Imagine a Finno-Ugric Shtetl somewhere in northern Siberia ... that sort of music ;)

MelBee said...

Rima love this painting...and was lucky enough to see it hung up in the 'Artisan' shop last weekend amongst other beautiful paintings of yours.....I wanted to sit and just go with its voice...beautiful.x Love to talk to you about a clock sometime...xx

Linda said...

Amazing art work...reaches into your soul...:)

Aaron-Paul said...

Rima, this by far is in my eyes your best work , its just stunning with beautiful descriptive wordage .

Vivienne said...

Stunning...

thea said...

Oh my goodness!!! That was AMAZING to see your beautiful masterpiece come together!

I feel privelaged!

thea.
xx

(spoonfulzine.com)

mokihana said...

Beautiful, Rima. The whole of it, the whole of you and the way there. Masterful magician, alchemist.

Happy Summer xo

marta said...

Thank you for sharing your process with us. That is amazing and inspiring to see. Beautiful colors, beautiful work.

Claire said...

Words cannot do this justice. The process you describe being shown in your painting, means so much to me, but I imagine means so much more to you. Stunning!

Nadia said...

I am taking an intensive Russian summer course. I will ask my teacher about the ending, but when sounded out, it merely sounds like a feminine noun, structured like all other feminine nouns in Russian. If it wasn't a word, it is now! Beautiful work here. I love the colors dripping off of her. :)

Layla Morgan Wilde: Boomer Muse/Cat Wisdom101 said...

Thank-you for sharing this alchemical process. Were the sanpaku eyes on purpose? And what a treasure trove of of blog links! I feel like Alice falling down the rabbit hole.

Ailona said...

Your paintings are wonderful... I feel like i can really relate to the sound of your art .. I am a circus performer, born in to a russian circus family .. a gypsy traveling through life.. painting.. and listening to music.. thank you for your inspiration !

Ailona

Em said...

Rima: I got a small print of this and I am so thrilled to be awaiting it as I fell in love with it the minute I saw it. It's lovely, but it's more than that. It does, indeed, capture that magic that sometimes happens to us when we create.

I am curious how long before this post you finished it, do you have any idea the date it was finished?

Thank you!

ruchi said...

Dear Rima,
Just cam across your blog while i was finding our more about the word alchemy.
I am an commmercial artist myself.
I had goose bumps on looking at your piece of art and so beautifully you have explained it.
It really touched my heart.
And I personally believe its real art when it touches someones art..creates feelings in somebody.
Thank you so much.

Keep up the good work.

Lots of Love
Ruchi